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B.C. health registry expansion aims to connect patients with family doctors: minister

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British Columbia is expanding a registry program provincewide in an effort to connect more patients with available family doctors, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday.

The New Democrat government's expanded Health Connect Registry, which launched July 1, aims to make it easier for B.C. patients to get a family doctor or nurse practitioner in their community by signing up for a primary-care provider, he told a news conference.

Dix said he's not making promises about the numbers of people who will find doctors, but progress will be measured and regular public updates will be provided starting this fall.

"This gives patients a place to go when they need a family doctor," he said.

"It allows us to understand, not just in survey terms, the challenge, but also to assist people and families in their desire to get a family doctor."

The number of people without a family doctor in B.C. has declined to about 895,000 from 980,000 in 2021, but the number is still too high, said Dix.

"I don't make predictions," he said. "I'm hopeful that we make progress."

Dix said the registry gives the B.C. government a list of people looking for family doctors, people who have family physicians, as well as providers and clinics accepting new patients.

B.C. residents can now register themselves and their families, Dix said, while doctors and nurse practitioners will join the platform and upload their patient roster.

"This, of course, will give us together the ability to connect more patients with more doctors and more nurse practitioners in the future," he said.

Recent government programs to attract and retain family doctors in B.C. through a new fee model have attracted 3,300 sign-ups, while 156 new family doctors have registered for a new practice incentive program, said Dix.

The new model developed by the province and Doctors of BC, representing B.C.'s 14,000 physicians, residents and medical students, took aim at the family doctor shortage by addressing challenges in the fee-for-service system, the minister said earlier this year.

Family physicians were forced to become business people, which is especially unappealing to many younger doctors, he said at the time.

The new model sought to reduce the administrative burden family doctors face, he said, allowing them more time with their patients and compensating them for spending extra time, especially with patients who have complex needs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2023. 

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